The thing about the Oscars is that they “have nothing to do with standards of good moviemaking,” laments the Toronto Star‘s Geoff Pevere. “And I mean nothing, as in what’s left when you take zero from zero, multiply it to infinity and divide it the number of times Alfred Hitchcock, Howard Hawks, Ingmar Bergman or Akira Kurosawa won for Best Director. (Which was zip, by the way.)
“If they did have anything to do with the quality of movies, the following would necessarily follow: It would not be possible that the hysterically-cloying Little Miss Sunshine would be nominated for Best Picture and Children of Men would not.
“It would not be possible that Chicago could be mentioned in the same breath with ‘Best Picture.’
“It would not be possible that the great Barbara Stanwyck would have died with no Oscars on her shelf and Hilary Swank, who will not presumably die for some time yet, should already have two.
“It would not be possible that Ron Howard would be more esteemed than Orson Welles.
“It would not be possible that, when the searing Goodfellas lost to the all-but-unwatchable Dances With Wolves, Martin Scorsese should be told that sorry, but you’re just not as visionary an artist as Kevin Costner.
“And it would not be possible for Will Smith to commit as heinous an act of sentimental terrorism as The Pursuit of Happyness — holding his own son hostage on-screen in the process — and actually be rewarded and not jailed for it.”
The new 295-seat, stadium-style Billy Wilder Theatre at Westwood’s Armand Hammer Museum will launch on Friday, 2.9, with a showing of Wilder’s The Apartment, to be followed by a discussion between director Curtis Hanson and star Shirley MacLaine. Also slated during the first 10 days of programming are the first “Art of Light” evenings, spotlighting the work of cinematographers, as well as the initial “First Mondays,” a showcase for advance screenings of new films. The archive’s month-long retrospective of the films of Italian neorealist giant Roberto Rossellini starts on 2.16. Another upcoming program is called “From Nitrate Through Digital,” which will examine different projection technologies and innovations over the decades.
The journey to Santa Barbara was stopped in its tracks yesterday by that large crane crashing onto the 405. It took me two hours to travel about 1.5 miles on that awful stretch of road; I finally gave up around 5 pm. Trying again this morning via the much prettier coast highway; hoping to see a couple of films and then attend the Forest Whitaker tribute early this evening.
The Messengers is the weekend’s top film with a projected $14,435,000 in 2522 theatres, $5700 a print. Because I Said So is #2 at 12,228,000 — 4800 a print. Epic Movie, off 60% from last weekend, is third with $7,483,000. Night at the Museum is #4 with 6,617,000. And Joe Carnahan‘s Smokin’ Aces is coolin’ off fast with a 56% drop from last weekend’s debut and a projected $6,369,000 by Sunday evening.
The sixth-place Dreamgirls is in 2700-odd theatres and pulling in only $1400 a print for a weekend tally of $4,084,000. (It’ll probably lose 800 to 1000 theatres next weekend.) Stomp the Yard is #7 with $3,991,000. Pan’s Labyrinth is eighth with $3,587,000. The Pursuit of Happyness is #9 with $3,014,000. Catch and Release is tenth with $2,798,000…down 62%. Forget it.
The Departed has been put it back into theatres and is doing some decent business — $2,700,000 in 1400 theatres. It’s the 11th-ranked film of the weekend.
Wanting in on the Eddie Murphy smackdown, The Envelope‘s Tom O’Neil is recalling some some righteous/conten- tious thoughts that Murphy passed along at the Oscar podium exactly 20 years ago (which would be….uhm, 1987). Murphy “told the audience that he originally planned to refuse the Oscars’ request to present the award for best picture,” O’Neil writes, “because ‘they haven’t recognized black people in the motion picture industry‘ — noting that only three African-Americans had won an acting award over the past 60 years.
“I’ll probably never win an Oscar for saying this,” Murphy remarked. “Actually, I might not be in any trouble because the way it’s been going, it’s about every 20 years we get one, so we ain’t due until about 2004.”
I don’t see how this throws any kerosene on the fire, frankly. More like water. I respect Murphy for standing up and saying what he did — anybody would. But that was then and this is now.
It may be pointless to try and further explain myself, but I’ve just been saying what any veteran of this town would acknowledge and then chuckle about at a party, buzzed or sober. Murphy is a pissed-off, guarded, obviously gifted comic performer who has never laid it on the line in terms of heavyweight acting, and there’s no absolutely way he’s laying it on the line in Dreamgirls. Like Peter Howell said, he’s doing his SNL James Brown shtick. Plus the part isn’t written with any third-act payoffs. It’s one of the most bizarre and groundless acting nominations in Oscar history.
It’s not just the calibre of a performance — substantial character construction and some kind of semi-meaningful arc (or journey) have to be there also. And the writing in the Dreamgirls script that would accomplish this just isn’t there. James Thunder Early is an amalgam of famous black performers — barely a character, and certainly not a character with any intriguing turns, deepenings and/or crescendo moments — this is who I am, what I want, what I need, please love me, I don’t care if you love me…anything along those lines.
The Oscar nom is much more of a referendum on Murphy himself — some half-assed notion of a career comeback, his likability in the early to mid ’80s, his current asshole-ishness (see the Razor item), the p.c. positiveness that comes with giving an Oscar to any person of color, etc. And in that light, the thought of him winning the Oscar almost gives me indigestion. I’m serious…I can feel the turbulence building in my stomach as I write this. And the Oscar goes to….Norbit!
Anyway, O’Neil’s thing works for today, there’s the New York Post story (allegedly) coming out tomorrow…but then what? Burnout, most likely.